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By STEVEN NALLEY
Maben saw economic growth and the completion of a new city hall in 2012, and city officials are looking to build on the foundation set in 2012 to pursue more opportunities in 2013.
City officials held a grand opening ceremony for a new $318,000 city hall in early December, replacing an old one demolished in 2011 due to unsafe amounts of mold. Maben Mayor Larry Pruitt said he hopes for the new city hall to be a starting point for other renovations and improvements to the downtown area.
â€śWe have some more long-term plans to redevelop Main Street, and weâ€™re going to be trying to get all buildings owned by the city in immaculate shape,â€ť Pruitt said. â€ś(Weâ€™re) just making sure we meet all guidelines. Weâ€™re looking at restructuring Maben. The two things that are really pressing (are) just developing downtown and trying to recruit a dollar store. That is our projected goal for 2013. The election is this June; we want to try to get some things turning before these next six months end.â€ť
Pruitt said plans for downtown also include everything from cosmetic touches to maintenance issues such as heating and cooling. The city also has several residential properties whose owners have abandoned them to dilapidation, said, and Pruitt is looking at options that will enable the city to remove these properties if owners do not fix them.
â€śWeâ€™re going to be looking at that in the next three months,â€ť Pruitt said. â€śWhen people drive through our community... we want things to be beautiful. Weâ€™re trying to open up some avenues for some more businesses.â€ť
In August, Maben-based Main Street Forest Products announced plans to partner with a secondary company, Main Street Casual Living, to produce upholstered furniture and create roughly 62 new jobs. Pruitt said 75-85 percent of these new jobs will be with Main Street Casual Living.
â€śWe got the word (Thursday) that theyâ€™re about to start hiring in about 30 days,â€ť Pruitt said. â€śThey did (already) hire some experienced people who have already built some furniture ... so they can do some training for the new (employees). Sometime in the next week, we should be hearing about Maben Industrial Park Road. We have applied for that grant to do that resurfacing.â€ť
In other 2012 news, Maben Fire Department Chief Justin Collins resigned in early December, reportedly claiming more firefighters would resign afterward. At the time, Pruitt said he had only received Collinsâ€™ resignation. On Friday, he said more firefighters have resigned, but they were inactive personnel. Only about half of Mabenâ€™s firefighters are active personnel, he said, and he hopes to grow that number in 2013, with help from some firefighters who had resigned when Collins took over but are now returning.
â€śIn the next three to four months, we look to have a total of about 18 firefighters,â€ť Pruitt said. â€śWe have some good firemen coming back that were there before the last administration.â€ť